Government challenged on bottom ranking
New Zealand’s bottom ranking in OECD figures for the earnings premium from tertiary education are being ignored by the Government, says the NZ Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).
“Figures released by the OECD this week have again confirmed that New Zealanders receive the lowest earnings boost from tertiary education in the entire OECD,” says NZUSA President Pete Hodkinson.
“The OECD average for the prospective earnings boost of a tertiary-educated worker compared to someone with no tertiary qualification is 57%. The equivalent figure cited for New Zealand is 18%, down from 20% in 2001. This is a significant difference.
“Tertiary students are rightly proud of the education they achieve, but what these figures reveal is a system consisting of a captive market in which students pay and borrow more, but eventually get less.
“We believe the way the New Zealand tertiary education system is geared towards counter-productively exploiting students in a low-income economy has to change. With a genuine commitment to tertiary education the things that need to change are very obvious,” says Hodkinson.
“First, we could rise above the bottom half of total expenditure on tertiary education per person – 20th out of 33 countries – through the Government committing more investment.
“The OECD study shows that New Zealanders already contribute privately 34% of the total amount, mostly through student fees, which is above the international average. Instead of government stepping up, the New Zealand system is reliant on relentless 4% fee increases every year, along with the vulnerable proposition that we can continue to attract the fourth highest percentage of international students in the OECD.
“Second, we could follow the example of Germany where tuition fees are being abolished by the government there to lessen the ratio of private burden on students.
“Third, we would have a Government with enough foresight to reverse recent decisions that are undermining tertiary education opportunities for postgraduate students and older New Zealanders, and to do more to address the future earnings prospects for women.
“The Minister for Tertiary Education, Steven Joyce, has been conspicuously silent on these bigger issues, instead preferring to indulge in some misleading spin about the fact that in a period of high youth unemployment more young people are staying on in education.
“NZUSA is urging the Minister not to be complacent about the long-term performance of the tertiary education system, and will be seeking to meet with him soon to discuss the processes for this year’s review of the current Tertiary Education Strategy and the new Compulsory Student Services Fee regime”.